Wisconsin is a hidden gem of a business school that annually enrolls not much more than 110 full-time MBAs. The small, intimate nature of the program, the applied projects thrown at students, and the emphasis on putting students through specialized areas of study make these MBAs well-prepared for their business careers.
Applied learning is a cornerstone of the Wisconsin MBA program’s curriculum. Throughout the first semester, students are assigned to work within a cross-functional team to perform an integrated analysis (ICA) of a publicly-traded company of their choosing. Each team recommends a new product or service that will enhance or support the company’s brand, operating performance and share value. The project culminates with a presentation to the core faculty who act as the senior executive committee of the company.
Moving through the program, students tackle projects that require real deliverables that actually make a difference. Many of these efforts are undertaken in specialized coursework. For example, Applied Securities Analysis students will actively manage a portfolio of funds with over $62 million in assets. Students in Brand and Product Management partner with client organizations to develop and execute design plans. In the Nicholas Center, student teams engage with clients in corporate finance consulting projects, developing recommendations for actions and presenting these recommendations to practicing CEOs and CFOs.
In the first semester of the first year in the Wisconsin full-time MBA Program, the general business core delivers an integrated perspective on key functional areas of business. The second semester addresses fundamental management principles, stressing the application of these principles to functional areas. Core courses are taken as a cohort to develop camaraderie and teamwork among students. The first year also includes at least three courses in students’ career specialization.
The specialized preparation that begins during the first year of the program is the primary focus the second year. In order to thoroughly grasp all aspects of a chosen specialization, students take up to eight classes in 10 different specialized areas that range from arts administration and brand & product management to real estate and supply chain management.
This is also an MBA program that turns out graduates who more often than not go to work for companies that make things, rather than merely advise companies or manage money. Procter & Gamble, General Mills, General Electric, and Dell led the school’s roster of top recruiters of full-time MBAs in 2011.
Expect some really good news on the rankings front when Poets&Quants cranks out the data later this year. After all, Wisconsin’s Business School jumped seven full spots in 2014 in U.S. News’ ranking, rising to 27th from 34th a year earlier. Add to that the fact that Wisconsin advanced ten full spots in The Financial Times’ 2014 global ranking, up to 81st from 91st, and you have a great momentum story.
BusinessWeek, whose biennial ranking is due in early November of 2014, had ranked Wisconsin a respectable 34th in 2012–the same rank it achieved two years earlier. The BusinessWeek survey largely measures student and corporate recruiter satisfaction with a school and solicits direct feedback from recent graduates. One Wisconsin grad did a great job summing up the MBA experience at the school: “Wisconsin offers tremendous cost vs. payback value for both in-state and out-of-state students. The city of Madison itself offers big-city living without major congestion, and it offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. The brand new state-of-the-art MBA wing of Grainger Hall is an amazing facility, offering the MBA students a spacious and high-tech environment for learning, working, and relaxing. The faculty and staff here are extremely supportive, the class sizes are small, and the MBA students are treated as a very special group among the larger population of business students on campus and in Grainger Hall.”